The programme which launched in 2022 has already repurposed 156 tonnes of unused protein powder to be used within industrial fish feed, winning the EMEA Circular Economy Transition of the Year Award in the 2023 Sustainable Company Awards from Environmental Finance.
THG's sustainability strategy which launched in 2021, revolves around three key pillars: protecting climate, strengthening supply chain, and empowering people and communities.
Within these pillars, the initiative aims to achieve goals such as zero waste to landfill across operations, Mark Jones, chief sustainability officer at THG tells NutraIngredients.
The new sustainability initiative was born from a challenge identified in 2022, with the on-site operations team recognising the need to find a solution for excess protein powder stock deemed unsellable due to safety and quality concerns.
Jones explains: “Ultimately our priority is ensuring that our products are safe and high quality for our consumers.
“But where the quality or the safety wasn't met, we needed to find an innovative way to redirect those products away from traditional landfill or traditional waste operations.”
This led to a collaboration with waste processing company MYGroup, which specialise in sustainable commercial disposal.
“When it comes to sustainability, the most important part when it comes to trying to find these solutions isn’t what's going to be the most ‘razzle-dazzle’; it’s what’s going to be the best for the environment.
“That can lead to some innovative solutions, and from an operational and cost perspective, for us this meant up-cycling material into new products to be reused for another purpose,” Jones explains.
The excess protein powder from MyProtein is taken to MYGroup’s facilities for re-manufacturing, which involves blending it with other up-cycled ingredients.
The exact recipe is determined by the target feed, where the key is “making sure that there's an appropriate balance between the proteins, fats, carbohydrates, essential vitamins and minerals, for that particular kind of fish food or livestock food,” Jones explains.
The semi-wet ingredient mix is then pelletised and distributed, and MYGroup’s system allows the tracking of incorporated ingredients and finished products, so THG can trace where the disused MyProtein has ended up.
The project is ongoing, with THG working to refine its current process of data collection and tracking to see the exact quantities of repurposed MyProtein.
Jones explains that one of the primary challenges faced in this initiative was ensuring food safety standards.
As the Food Standards Agency (FSA) tells NutraIngredients: "Where disposal of food supplements is necessary, this must be in accordance with relevant legislative requirements. These include requirements in relation to food waste in food hygiene legislation.
“If a supplement to be disposed of contains a product of animal origin Animal By-Products legislation is potentially relevant for which policy responsibility, along with responsibility for food waste policy, rests with Defra in England.
“Disposal must otherwise be in line with the requirements / licence / contract with the waste carrier.”
But as Jones explains, the next steps will be to minimise waste generation through reducing excess materials at the source, by exploring ways to combine circular economy principles with plant-based sourcing to expand sustainable product offerings.
“We want to help remove waste from our supply chain wherever possible, and I think through constant innovation we can find ways to tackle that problem, which will help us improve and operate in a more transparent way.
“We want to showcase to our customers, but also to our peers, what's going to work and what hasn't worked.
“For us, I think when it comes to sustainability, transparency and collaboration is key - so we're very eager to showcase things.
“Even if things haven’t gone well, it's an important lesson that all of us can learn, as we as an industry are all trying to work towards the same goals.”